Gorgeous Girls in Green (Fashion Idea Board)

If you come here just for the fashion, scroll ahead!  Although, on second thought, maybe click “play” first anyway, if you feel like having your eardrums quiver in ecstasy.  Usurping this fashion post with a stream of Animals As Leaders’ latest release, The Joy of Motion, is my gift to myself, as I have expended all my willpower trying to refrain from blowing up reddit and facebook in my fanboy swooning glory:

Favorite tracks so far:  “Another Year” and “The Future That Awaited Me.”  Also, parts of “Physical Education” make me tingly in my special places.  This album has all the technical proficiency I’ve come to expect from the band, but with a sound more emotionally evocative than their previous albums.  It’s impeccably produced, but doesn’t lose its soul.  Pre-orders are available via their label, Sumerian Records, album is officially release next Tuesday (3/25).

With thanks and full credit to  Stabzor at deviantart for the perfect swooning fanboy image

With thanks and full credit to Stabzor at deviantart for the perfect swooning fanboy image

Right then, fashion stuff!  Redheads look great in green!  And since we’re on such a redhead kick this year (partly but not wholly inspired by the decision of yours truly to return to her ginger roots, difficult though it was to part with that badass purple and black look), a fashion board showcasing the many ways to rock an emerald-toned look is a perfect fit.  Besides, green is often associated with spring and renewal, and goodness knows that we could use a bit of both around here.

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Clearly it’s not just the gingers who look great in green!  Photo credits for this set are available on our “Gorgeous Greens” fashion board.

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Progressive Rock 31-Day Challenge (Week Two)

Amazing music from week 2.  If I could manage to stay in Atlanta for more than 2 days at a time, I might actually have the opportunity to post about these phenomenal albums in a timely manner.  Alas.

Despite my failure to edit/post these entries in accordance with my self-imposed deadlines, I actually have been listening on schedule!  And keeping up with my drumming commitments… whenever I’m at home.  So, lately, that’s about 50/50.

Anyway, here’s a look at where we’ve been so far this month, and also a peek at what’s coming up “next” week, and by that I mean the week that’s halfway over:

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And the past week’s round-up of prog rock goodness:

The Kindred:

1thekindredMy first exposure to The Kindred was when they were on tour with Protest The Hero, The Contortionist, and Affiance last winter.  Are you kidding me with that lineup?  They were the most “junior” of the support acts then, and they’re playing the same role with the current Between the Buried and Me / Deafheaven / Intronaut tour.  So you know that either they have the greatest manager of all time, or they are truly something special, the type of band that emphatically justifies my “get there early enough to check out the opening acts” policy.  (Hint:  It’s the latter.)   Powerhouse vocals with a forceful mix of clean singing and growls; technically masterful but still passionate guitar work; and my favorite part, the integration of piano/keys in a manner that makes me suspect that Handel has been reincarnated as a progressive metalhead.  Definitely check out their latest release Life in Lucidity (which dropped at the end of February 2014), but make the effort to see them live for full effect.

Caligula’s Horse:

1caligulashorseWhat the heck is going on in Australia?!  Last week, I was swooning over Glass Ocean.  This week, brace yourself for a similar response with respect to Caligula’s Horse.  How great of a band name is that, by the way?!  Their sound is beautiful yet masculine.  I’ve been struggling to find a better-known band to which to compare them, in the hopes of enticing readers to check out their bandcamp page (linked below), but the best I can come up with is a mellower version of Skyharbor (clean vocals songs only) or TesseracT. Although obviously a high compliment to the band as a whole and the vocalist in particular, the comparison is nevertheless imprecise.  But now, I’m frustrated.  Some prog and tech bands could fairly be described as “challenging”; this doesn’t necessarily mean better, but they require more patience, high quality headphones, and several rotations of the album in its entirety (and perhaps even watching play-through videos) to simply begin to appreciate all the nuances contained therein… and if one doesn’t invest that time, the music will be written off as “weird,” or worse, “just noise.”  But as I’ve noted with a couple of bands throughout these 2014 challenges, Caligula’s Horse seems more accessible to a broader audience without losing any of its progressive “cred.”  My satellite radio is currently down (although most of the SiriusXM stations are essentially payola junior at this point anyway), and if I dare to change the station from NPR classical, my eardrums are assaulted with incessant trash.

My point:  I’m convinced that a ton of people would love Caligula’s Horse if they were given proper exposure to it, but instead they’re subjected to nothing but autotuned predictable bullshit blaring through the car speakers during their daily commute.  Aside from being “too long” for FM radio (almost all their songs are over 6 minutes) — and don’t get me started on that — any one of the tracks off The Tide… could be digested and enjoyed as a single, while giving the listener a brief respite from the fifth Linkin’ Park clone to be played before yet another commercial break.  Dammit!  Now get off my lawn!  When I was a kid I had to walk five miles in the snow to school uphill both ways!

Wide Eyes:

1wideeyesI am trying to find a way to justify why this band is included in what is ostensibly a progressive rock music challenge, particularly when I just had an instrumental metal challenge during the month of February.  They have a killer tech metal sound, that I suppose I could argue is more toward the melodic end of the spectrum… but I don’t suppose there’s any way I can fairly classify them as a prog rock group.  Oh well.  I doubt they’ll be the only band that pops up during this month or the next that would align better with another challenge.  But they just released Samsara and if you liked the theme of last month’s challenge — or if you’re a prog rock fan looking to expand your horizons into metal without getting jet-blasted in the face with brutal death growls (but query, why the heck not?!) — you should go check them out.  The album is kickass, regardless of its applicability (or lack thereof) to March’s theme.

  • Link to Wide Eyes’s facebook page
  • Link to stream of 2014 release, “Samsara” (available for purchase via bandcamp)

The Flower Kings:

1flowerkingsThe Flower Kings’ latest release, Desolation Rose, is a two-disc album, which means that it’ll take some effort clicking around youtube to catch all the songs if you stream before buying.  As the vibe varies a bit (albeit not drastically) from track to track, it’s worth the effort, particularly if you are only feeling lukewarm about one song or another.  I selected “Tower One,” rather than the obvious choice of the album’s title track, because I thought the latter better exemplified the general “old-school prog rock with a modern edge” feeling of Desolation Rose as a collective whole.  But hey, if no songs strike your fancy, try another album!  These guys have been around awhile and have built a reputation as staples of the progressive rock scene and sound.  Thus, their appearance on the PNAS ship!  And thus, also, the basis of part of my enthusiasm in including them on this month’s list; seeing them live, but failing to catch the entirety of their set, left me craving more.

Jolly:

1jollyConfession time.  I’m actually almost embarrassed to admit this.  It’s pretty clear that I’m maybe just a tad obsessed with Jolly’s “Audio Guide to Happiness” two-part album set.  Breakout band of 2013?  Number four favorite album of last year (and consider who they “beat” to win that title!)?  Recycled art series?  In two parts?  To say nothing of the fact that their presence on PNAS was, as I have often repeated, one of the major determining factors in booking the trip.  So after all that, you may be surprised to learn that this very challenge was the first time I’ve listened to 46 Minutes, 12 Seconds of Music straight through.  Well, shame on me.  Their debut album is all of the Jolly goodness I expected, and thus has become an immediate — albeit overdue — addition to my album collection.  Replay, replay, replay.  Gahhhh, I love this band!

King’s X:

1kingsxYet another prog band for which I have an undeniably soft spot thanks in no small part to PNAS?  Indeed!  My exposure to King’s X prior to book the trip was surprisingly minimal.  They pop up on satellite radio’s classic rock stations from time to time, which I guess is indicative of their potential for broader, non-prognerd appeal.  And the album I chose for this challenge might just be the catchiest compilation of prog rock/metal songs I’ve heard to-date.  Intense and soulful, the songs express so much but in a way that’s more stripped-down than the stereotypical prog act.  If you can listen to this without grooving along in your chair, or at least feel your mood uplifted, then… well, to each their own, obviously, but I can’t understand it!  Incidentally:  I speak with absolute authority that they still absolutely friggin’ SLAY IT live!  One of my favorite memories from PNAS was looking down on the pool deck with the whole crowd singing along, “Music, music, I hear music…”  Damn.  I need to figure out if anyone posted a video (and then berate myself for actually being reluctantly grateful, for the first time ever, of a fan-produced cell phone concert clip).  I’m getting chills from the recollection alone.

Pain of Salvation:

1painofsalvationSo I have to start with a negative comment on this one:  the volume on the full stream link is kind of jacked up, to the point that it was distracting me and detracting from the album listening experience.  It should be fine if you are listening via loudspeakers, but it’s not ideal if you have highly sensitive headphones.  In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t own Remedy Lane, so this might be something inherent to the album rather than a faulty youtube upload.  I understand that sometimes an intensification of volume on a track can heighten the emotion of the song, but continual fluctuations drive me crazy.  It’s a subset of a general peeve of mine that also includes radio or television commercials being louder than the actual programming; movie actors speaking in hushed, nearly inaudible voices that are followed by a cacophony of  explosions or deafening clatter; and bass turned up so high that it supersedes every other element of a song and reverberates through your bones.

"Back in my day, children were seen, not heard.  And not seen!  With your newfangled rap music and rock 'n roll..."

“Back in my day, children were seen, not heard. And not seen! With your newfangled rap music and rock ‘n roll…”

The fact this album, of all things, is what sparked a tirade, is utterly absurd.  If this darn post wasn’t five days overdue, I’d spend more time contemplating and then delineating some of the reasons why, whether you listen to one song or their entire catalog, the band is so compelling.  And why they attract and deserve such an ardent and loyal following.  Instead, I’ll let their headline billing on PNAS this past February and ProgPower this September speak for itself.

  • Link to Pain of Salvation’s facebook page
  • Link to stream of 2002 release, “Remedy Lane”
  • Remedy Lane available for purchase

I’m not sure if this week’s line-up makes me more or less homesick for the PNAS cruise!  So many great artists and albums, bringing back so many wonderful memories.  Please forgive the choppy randomness of this week’s reviews.  I must post!

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Winter to Spring Transition (Part Two)

We already posted one photo set for the winter-to-spring fashion theme, but the thought of warmer weather is so exciting that we needed a second inspiration board to capture more ideas in this style.  Tights, thigh highs, long sleeves paired with short skirts:  let’s get right to it!

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As before, photo credits are available on our “Winter to Spring Transition” board.

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Prog Rock 31-Day Challenge (Week One)

Okay, I just had to remind myself that this is a month-long Progressive Rock music review, not a personal diary entry.  Thus, I’ve spared you fine folks the Grown-Ass Woman’s (grown ass-woman’s?) version of a livejournal entry circa 2002 through my judicious use of the “delete” button.  There’s too much fantastic progressive rock to cover to divert our attention elsewhere!  [Ed. Note: but buhjeezus, my parents are incredible...]

So here’s what we’ve covered for the first week (plus a Saturday), as well as a preview of what will be up in Week Two:

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And, conforming to the style of the past two month-long music challenges, here are a few thoughts on our first 8 bands:

Oceansize:

1oceansizeMy sentiments regarding the inclusion of saxophones in prog metal and rock are pretty well documented at this point; in short, I am obsessed!  Perhaps less aggressively and constantly declared on this website is how much I enjoy when violins and cellos are incorporated into proggy music as well.  Of course, the caveat is that it must be done properly, in furtherance of the overall composition and not as a gimmick.  Well, Frames absolutely kills it.  The stringed instruments appear as an occasional accompaniment that heightens the listening experience from bliss to ecstasy, appearing at just the right times and in the right quantities to add an emotional punch.  How am I just now discovering this band?  The vocalist sounds eerily familiar, but I haven’t been able to place who his style reminds me of.  Regardless, even though I ought to be playing catch-up on my album listening agenda, I haven’t been able to take this one off repeat.

Thank You Scientist:

1thankyouscientistLet’s get the most important part out of the way:  this is a prog rock group with a sax, violin, and trumpet.  I first discovered them when they were announced as one of the new prog bands who would be performing at PNAS, and of course the diverse use of instruments immediately intrigued me.  They were at the top of the list of bands I wanted to check out aboard, but in the chaos of the cruise, I was actually rushing past their performance mid-set, on my way to another show.  Like I watched so many others after me do that night, my attention and my destination were both instantly diverted toward their stage.  I stayed for the remainder of their set, and fortunately I arrived in time to witness such gems as this:

The consensus position on the boat could be stated simply:  these guys are awesome!  The album Maps is superb, but it can’t really compare to seeing them live.  Everything from their energy to the resonance and quality of their sound to the listener’s absorption in the music is magnified tenfold.

Beardfish:

1thevoidI’m only on the third album, and it’s already pretty clear that this month’s theme is going to be incessant references to PNAS — either “buhjeezeus, they killed it there,” or “dang it, dang it, dang it, how did I manage to miss their set?”  Beardfish falls somewhere in between:  I did catch part of their  performance on the pool deck, and it was amazing!  Just my style.  Alas, I was also distracted by equally fantastic conversation at the time (at the bar/suntanning area, far away from the stage and an entire floor above the pool deck — just to clarify that I haven’t turned into a hypocrite with respect to shitty concert behavior!), so I didn’t get the full Beardfish experience.  That’s why they appear so early in the challenge; I couldn’t wait for an excuse to explore their catalog more thoroughly!  Right now I’m rocking out to their most recent, The Void, but you really can’t go wrong here.  The band is on the heavier side of my broadest impressions of the prog rock genre, perhaps not as “cheery,” but given my musical predilections, that’s exactly why I’m so drawn to them.  Prepare to be absorbed in blissful blanket of sound.

If These Trees Could Talk:

1ifthesetreesOh, Red Forest — the selected album for this band — is just so pretty.  If These Trees Could Talk is all-instrumental, but they’re much more “rock” than “metal,” at least from the perspective of someone like yours truly with significant roots in the death/thrash/metalcore community, which is why they didn’t appear on the February challenge.  But I can’t for the life of me remember how I was first tipped off to their existence.  My best guess is that they are yet another brillaint soundcloud/bandcamp find.  In any event, Red Forest is the kind of album that I can put on at the beginning of the work day, and then just keep on hitting repeat until it’s time to head home (or to the dreaded LA  Fitness if the weather is crummy).  Bizarrely, I haven’t explored the rest of ITTCT’s catalog, but that is soon to be rectified.  Recommended for instrumental metal fans who are craving a relatively softer vibe, or post-rock fans who want to toughen things up:  this band hits the equilibrium and should appeal to both.

Glass Ocean:

1glassoceanVocals.  What the ever-loving oprah.  The vocals.  For someone who purports to be primarily drawn to guitar tones and sharp drumming, I sure do spend a lot of timing swooning over vocalists who nail it (Matt Berninger of The National, Ashe of TesseracT, Spencer in Periphery, Daniel Tompkins in anything he’s ever done, you get the idea).  This band would not be the same with anyone other than Tobias Atkins singing.  There are moments when I actually get chills — his vocal timbre is unlike, well, anyone’s.  The collective effect is a sound that’s… not modern, but that doesn’t mean it’s dated.  How to explain?  They’re not some cheesy nostalgic throwback act, but if a vinyl of this album had magically appeared on my Dad’s phonograph during his college years, he would’ve been as blown away then as I am now.  (Long time readers are well aware that I think my Pops is the coolest dude on the planet and am grateful for the way his musical tastes ultimately helped to shape my own.  So this is definitely meant as a compliment.)  Two complaints:  (1)  this is an EP, and I want more music!!!!, and (2) they’re based in Australia, which makes the chances of a US tour woefully improbable.  Dear cosmic forces, can I please win the darn lottery so I can pass my days traveling around the world, seeing and celebrating random bands like these guys?  Buy a ticket tonight and we have a deal?  Perfect, done.

Porcupine Tree:

1porcupinetreeSince the linked stream of In Absentia contains several videos that have been removed for copyright reasons, I decided to click around YouTube’s suggested listening to satisfy my craving for more of Porcupine Tree’s genius.  In addition to the gems that popped up from the band’s extensive (about 10 albums) studio catalog, I came across a couple of tracks from Out Absentia.  A google scavenger hunt informed me that Out Absentia is a bootleg of various B-sides and outtakes from In Absentia.  How cool is that?!  If you dig the official album, then it’s worth listening to the bootleg takes as well.  Incidentally, this research also led me to learn that band creator Steve Wilson detests labels like “neo prog rock” and comparisons to Pink Floyd, preferring his music to be judged, classified, and enjoyed on its own merits.  So, I won’t expressly suggest here that people who dig that psychedelic complex Pink Floyd sound might be drawn to Porcupine Tree as well, but….  Right.

Lucid Fly:

1lucidflyI have, on several occasions now, mentioned my ambivalence toward female vocalists in metal/rock.  It has nothing to do with talent, but rather reflects my sensitivity to certain pitches (the shrill squeak of the automated voice at my gym’s parking deck fills me with an irrational rage that only jump squats to exhaustion can mollify) and an seemingly innate preference for baritones.  These are generalizations, of course: I have made no secret of my affection for tenor dudes that can kill it on the high end — see, e.g., Spencer Sotelo of Periphery, Daniel Tompkins of Skyharbor, Ashe O’Hara of TesseracT — who I believe are tremendous assets to some of my favorite bands, and I’m always excited when I get to highlight a female vocalist who excites me — obligatory Laura Pleasants (Kylesa) mention goes here.  And, with respect to the latter point, I’m happy to say that I have such an opportunity here!  And, double bonus:  notwithstanding the fact that Lucid Fly can and should fairly be classified as a prog rock band, they have enough cross-over appeal that, given the right exposure, a much wider audience than the prog community would connect with their sound.  I really dig their The Escape Stage EP, and I’m always stoked when I stumble upon a band that I can share with interested friends as a more accessible introduction to the “weird” (and it’s almost always described as “weird”) music that means so much to me.

Portals Align:

1portalsalign2Here we have yet another example of why my ceaseless soundcloud / bandcamp / reddit exploits are not in vain.  Portals Align are unsigned and, based on the pictures they’ve posted to their facebook page, they’re a fairly young group of guys.  In other words, without the internet, I doubt I ever would have stumbled across them.  They haven’t posted a lot of material, but — especially given the DIY nature of what they’re producing — I’m impressed with the quality of what’s out there and really looking forward to following them as they continue to develop as musicians.  Also, I completely geek out over playthrough videos (and if you do too, go check out Pomegranate Tiger‘s immediately.  Theirs are my absolute favorite and I refuse to shut up about it!).  The Portals Align dudes have posted a couple playthroughs on youtube; the “Translucent Stimuli” one is better produced, but I like the song “Shikimate Pathway” more, so choose your own adventure here.  In the meantime, I’m going back to watch that dang Pomegranate Tiger bass playthrough video for the 50th time.

"No sir, this is how I always look at Excel spreadsheets during work hours, I promise."

“No sir, this is how I always look at Excel spreadsheets during work hours, I promise.”

  • Link to Portals Align’s facebook page
  • Link to stream of (part of?) 2012 (I think!) release, “The Cosmic Reassessment” via soundcloud
  • If anyone knows where this album is available for purchase, let me know and I’ll update!

Seriously, though, that Spongebob-the-Fanboy:  I do this at my desk at least once a day.

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Winter to Spring Transition (Part One)

Some of our fine readers to the north probably can still see mounds of snow if they look out their windows, so perhaps this fashion idea board is a bit premature.  But it’s a sunny day here in Atlanta, and we can’t hold off any longer!  The glamorous winter coats and cozy chunky sweaters were fun for a while, but surely I’m not the only one yearning for a reunion with my collection of jean shorts.  Star-imprinted jhorts and cowboy boots at a metal show?  Don’t mind if I do!  Join me in ignoring the weather reports, but check out these ideas that will mitigate the cold at least a little bit

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Look for round two of this theme in a few days!  Until then, photo credits and a sneak peek at the upcoming styles are available on our “Winter to Spring Transition” board.

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March Book Mini-Challenge

Pretty much, if I were reincarnated as an awesome doggy.  Rockstar lifestyle over here, let me tell ya.

Pretty much, if I were reincarnated as an awesome doggy. Rockstar lifestyle over here, let me tell ya.

At the beginning of the February Book Mini-Challenge, I set the rather lofty goal of 8 books for the month.  By Valentine’s Day, the mid-point of the month, I was killin’ it!  Well into the pages of my fifth book, I was ahead of schedule to knock out this challenge with ease — especially given my devious plan to sneak in a book under 200 pages as #7 or #8.

Alas, real life (or, more accurately, the surreal version of it that sporadically punctuates my existence) meant that I needed to focus my attention on alternately relishing in and overcoming the kinds of things you’d expect to find in the Fiction section of the library, rather than on absorbing myself in the written words of others, during February’s final two weeks.

So I finished February having logged 6 books for the month; not my goal, but not bad either.  Knowing that two epic 500+ page books, as well as a few more intense math- and philosophy-oriented tomes that will require deeper concentration than the pop science stuff I also enjoy, are in the queue, my next reading mini-challenge is 6 books for the month of March.  Until then, consider picking up one or more of the books I enjoyed in February:

alouderthanwords1.  Benjamin Bergen - Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning

  • General Subjects:  linguistics, neuroscience
  • Pages:  312 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “Meaning, according to the embodied simulation hypothesis, isn’t just abstract mental symbols; it’s a creative process, in which people construct virtual experiences – embodied simulations – in their mind’s eye.  ¶  If this is right, then meaning is something totally different from the definitional model we started with.  If meaning is based on experience with the world – the specific actions and precepts an individual has had – then it may vary from individual to individual and from culture to culture.  And meaning will also be deeply personal – what polar bear or dog means to me might be totally different from what it means to you.  Moreover, if we use our brain systems for perception and action to understand, then the processes of meaning are dynamic and constructive.  It’s not about activating the right symbol; it’s about dynamically constructing the right mental experience of the scene.” (p. 16)

awearblackhat2.  Chuck Klosterman - I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)

  • General Subjects: pop culture, humor
  • Pages:  224 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “[Andrew Dice Clay] wasn’t totally invested in that character (like [Andy] Kaufman), nor was he irrefutably pretending (like Stephen Colbert).  If he had taken the former route, people would’ve said, “This routine is disturbing, but at least it’s real.”  If he’d taken the latter route, he would have been seen as a satirist commenting on the entrenched hypocrisies of human sexuality.  But Dice ended up splitting the difference, and that never works over the long haul.  He was generating a persona that seemed exactly like the person he actually was, but still arguing that the Real Andrew Clay Silverstein was somehow separate (and that he could always tell the difference, even when no one else could).  It was like he was choosing to become the worst idealized version of himself, without taking responsibility for what that implied.  As such, he’ll never get credit for being dangerously authentic or secretly insightful.”  (p. 80-81)

aouterlimits3.  Noson Yanofsky - The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us

  • General Subjects:  physics, mathematics, logic
  • Pages:  424 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “To me, the most interesting versions of the multiverse are a consequence of some of the ideas… of quantum mechanics.  One of the main ideas was that a property of an object is in a superposition of values until it is observed by a conscious being, and then it collapses to a single value.  John Wheeler applies this concept to the entire universe.  When the universes came into being, there were no human observers and so everything that existed was in a hazy superposition of values.  But rather than thinking of this as a hazy superposition, think of it as a form of multiverse within our universe.  Objects had many possible values in our single universe….  This theory goes on to say that one of the many possible superpositions developed a complicated life or consciousness with the capacity to observe the surrounding universe….  This observation… collapsed the entire superposition into the one universe we know and love.  The superposition that brought along consciousness caused the superposition to collapse.  This theory is called the participatory anthropic principle.”  (p. 285)

ashallows4.  Nicholas Carr - The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

  • General Subjects:  Neuropsychology, technology
  • Pages:  280 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that’s the challenge involved in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory.  By regulating the velocity and intensity of information flow, media exert a strong influence on this process.  When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading.  Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas.  With the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast.  Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next.  We’re able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source.”  (p. 124-25)

atelltalebrain5.  V.S. Ramachandran - The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human

  • General Subjects:  neuroscience
  • Pages:  384 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “By trial and error, intuition or genius, human artists like Picasso or Henry Moore have discovered the human brain’s equivalent of the seagull brain’s stick with three stripes [a cool experiment described in detail earlier in the chapter].  They are tapping into the figural primitives of our perceptual grammar and creating ultranormal stimuli that more powerfully excite certain visual neurons in our brains as opposed to realistic-looking images.  This is the essence of abstract art….  ¶  This principle of ultranormal stimuli may be relevant not just to art but to other quirks of aesthetic preference as well, like whom you are attracted to.  Each of us carries templates for members of the opposite sex… and maybe those whom you find inexplicably and disproportionately attractive later in life are ultranormal versions of these early prototypes.  So the next time you are unaccountably – even perversely – attracted to someone who is not beautiful in any obvious sense, don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s just pheromones or “the right chemistry.”  Consider the possibility that she (or he) is an ultranormal version of the gender you’re attracted to buried deep in your unconscious.” (p. 212-13)

ahowmusicworks6.  John Powell - How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond

  • General Subjects:  music theory, science of music
  • Pages:  272 pages
  • Quick Quote:  “The fact that we only choose to use seven different notes at a time [the major and minor keys, described in the preceding paragraphs] fits in well with research carried out in the 1950s by the American psychologist George A. Miller, who studied the capacity of our short-term memories.  After testing people on their ability to remember sequences of numbers, letters, and tones, he came to the conclusion that the limit of our short-term memory is about seven items.  This limit of approximately seven is also common in other musical cultures.  Indian musicians, for example, divide the octave up into twenty-two steps, but they also choose a group of seven notes to be the basis of any particular piece.  (Indian musicians also have access to groups of secondary notes associated with their basic group of seven – as we shall see, Western music doesn’t use secondary notes because they would interfere with the harmonies we use.)”  (p. 120)

So, the February book challenge is wrapped up and the March book challenge is moving forward, plus we’ve got our Prog Rock album challenge and an unofficial drumming challenge to tackle this month, plus plotting for an art-related challenge next month and a new philosophy blog (well, it’ll just be a tumblr blog, but lots of original content!) that’s almost ready to launch.  Refuse to stagnate!

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March Challenge: 31 Days of Progressive Rock

I was going to postpone this Progressive Rock month-long challenge until April.  The January Norwegian Metal and February Instrumental Metal challenges were both wildly successful for me:  I exposed myself to plenty of new bands — some newbies displaying enormous potential, others legendary acts who had had somehow managed to remain absent from my listening repertoire over the years; spent a paycheck’s worth of money (well, maybe not quite that bad) on a number of fantastic albums and added several new artists to my “must see live” list; and forced myself to articulate some of the reasons why the long-term favorite bands I included on the agenda were so powerful and meaningful to me.

My versions of "Since I've Been Loving You" and "Kashmir" sound just a tad bit different than his...

My versions of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Kashmir” sound just a tad bit different than his…

So I didn’t want to half-ass the Progressive Rock iteration of this series!  And I’m still trying to catch up on everything after all the insanity of February.  Thus, March was simply going to be a month-long personal drumming challenge:  30-60 minutes (minimum! I expect more from myself, but kept the daily time requirement relatively low to facilitate consistency) of practice every day, documented and posted at the end of the month as a way of holding myself accountable and still keeping with the general music theme.  I still intend to fulfill that mini-challenge, although I will spare the folks who visit this site for music and fashion ideas (rather than the laments of a novice drummer struggling to conquer Bonham) anything more than an end-of-month affirmation (or, I suppose, self-flagellation if I slack off, but I’m thinking positive) that the challenge was conquered.  

Anyway!  One of the perks of having a lot on my mind is that what would otherwise be used as sleep time can now be put toward such constructive activities as deciding, “you just wasted almost an hour on reddit, go formulate the Prog Rock challenge now!”  So here we go, March’s schedule, albeit 4 days late:

MarchCalendar2

This is a pretty amazing line-up, no?  I tried to get a solid mix of old school prog rock mainstays and modern acts, but the diversity in selection meant that a lot of obvious choices were omitted:  no Rush, no Yes, no Genesis, no ELP, no Opeth, no Transatlantic… need I continue?  It seems pretty clear that April will probably end up being round two of this theme!

Per past challenges, look for weekly wrap-ups with specific notable albums at the beginning of each subsequent week.  See you then!

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Blue Jean Babes (Fashion Post)

Jeans!  This fashion inspiration board needs no more introduction other than to acknowledge that these beautiful real-women models take the blue jean casual concept to a much more stylish level than “with a cut-up band t-shirt and boots.”  Although I, personally, stand by that choice!  (Indeed, I’m wearing dark denim and my Pomegranate Tiger t-shirt, trademarked makeshift v-neck style, as I type this.)  As a nod to our many friends in the northern part of the U.S., Canada, and northern European countries, these looks are mostly oriented toward the lingering cold weather winter season, but some of the brighter colors reflect the enduring hope that spring is on its way soon.

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jeans17 jeans18
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Jeans with heels and a blazer constitute business casual, right?  Photo credits are on our linked “Jeans Jazzed Up” idea board.

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